If you thought you knew Lee Joon Gi, you actually didn’t know him at all.
Did you go for tanning?
I got a little dark because of filming.
I never imagined that dark skin would suit you.
Is it alright? Haha
This feels like a singer who is coming back with a new album. Because you are doing a project in Korea again after more than one year.
That’s right. I’ll be appearing in Korea after almost a year in Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo. But I was at work, not resting. I also starred in a Chinese movie. Filming for Moon Lovers began in January and ended in June.
There’s also the movie Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. You filmed together with Milla Jovovich.
I will say that I’ve “experienced Resident Evil”. I had a small role, so it’s a stretch to say that I filmed together with Milla Jovovich. It was a special appearance at the level of a cameo. Although I’m a fan of the Resident Evil series, but in reality, I decided to take on this challenge because I wanted to learn about the system in Hollywood. Because it is a place that I really want to go someday.
How was it like seeing Hollywood up close?
It was stimulating because the system itself was unfamiliar (to me). I’ve always been the kind who faces work with a fierce mindset, but they are more laid-back due to their professionalism. This collective laid-back attitude helped to make everyone feel comfortable at the set. It was really great. I learnt more than what I had expected. Because it has been a long time since I felt relaxed while filming, I was able to think about various things as I observed the set from afar.
What kind of man has Lee Joon Gi become in the past one year?
I haven’t had much personal time for myself. I didn’t go on a vacation, I didn’t date, and there wasn’t much time to have fun with friends either. I didn’t rest and did all kinds of work. If there is anything different now compared to one year ago…I don’t know, I think I became more boring? Haha.
It’s interesting, but why do you think that way?
I’ve always been the kind who doesn’t enjoy my personal life that much. I can’t enjoy even if I’m given more time. Because I have a strong sense of responsibility or duty towards work, I end up being so absorbed with work, such that I don’t know how to have fun once I have time. I don’t know how to invest time for myself.
I was hoping to see a more stoic Lee Joon Gi today. People who know a bit about Lee Joon Gi describe you as a competitive person. Wouldn’t it be good if you relaxed or let loose a little now? In fact, the present Lee Joon Gi seems very different from before.
I also think that way these days. That’s why the projects that I’ve chosen recently contain parts that are comfortable and without strength. Moon Lovers is not a drama that needs to follow a web-toon, and this is also the same in reality.
When I meet up with friends, I will always try to make them laugh and create a friendly atmosphere, but now, I do not think about anything and let myself be at ease. Rather than wanting to try and show something to anyone, I let loose discreetly. I think to myself, “Let’s try to live without any thoughts or desires, and go on a trip for once”.
You do such a thing too? Just going off to somewhere on your own?
I tend to feel lonely and have a lot of worries. Travelling on my own is something that I won’t be able to bear actually. I’ll definitely feel very lonely. I will need to find people. Being all alone somewhere far away is another kind of stress to me. Of course, I may be able to learn something through the time spent alone, but I’m still not confident that I’ll be able to enjoy.
I thought I saw you saying somewhere that you do not feel lonely when working.
That’s right. There’s no time to feel lonely. Hahaha.
It’s a bit of a pity that you are making your comeback in Moon Lovers. Your previous show was Scholar Who Walks the Night, and you also did Joseon Gunman and Arang and the Magistrate. Because we are used to seeing Lee Joon Gi in such dramas.
Everyone will think I’m doing sageuk again. There are probably many fans who disapprove also. I tend to get stressed whenever I have to select a project. Because no matter how good the show is, I ought to think of setting sageuks aside. There are definitely moments where I think it’s a pity. Although I pondered a lot, there was plenty of room to work together with many actors in this project, which was great. I was also able to play the role of a king; I’ve not acted as a king before. Repeatedly starring in shows of a similar genre can also become a limitation. But on the other hand, this also means that there is more that I can show in the future.
[*sageuk = historical dramas]
Because there are many things that you haven’t done before, so there is a lot for you to show?
People sometimes say this. Lee Joon Gi looks like he can’t do anything wrong, and he looks like he can’t curse either. Because he has always played strong and righteous characters or something related to fantasy. But there are now many projects that can help break this image of mine.
And if I’m determined to do it, I can curse well, play well, and get along well with other people! Of course, a big goal of mine is to return with a modern-day show after this. Nope, it’s not a goal, it must happen. Haha.
In Moon Lovers, you play a beast-like person who has been abandoned. A man who will become king in the future. There are also twists and two faces to him. Why does Lee Joon Gi always play a character in such big dramas?
Fortunately, I’ve done many sageuks, and I usually play characters who show growth or stir up the surroundings. I have the desire to portray different kinds of people. This is a basic desire that an actor should have. I’ve felt the excitement of being able to portray characters without any restrictions on expression in the fantasy dramas that I’ve acted in thus far. I am thrilled when I encounter people who are able to relate to the characters I play.
You also thought it was important to show a variety of things in a single piece of work. Just like how a show may be a sageuk but also a melodrama and fantasy drama at the same time. Most are not limited to just one kind of genre.
I was always such a greedy person; I had a greed of having to show a variety of things. Because I like physical action, I mostly played characters that need to possess complex emotions even when there are many action scenes. But audiences also seem to get tired if I try to portray too many things. They will get tired of course.
Why do you like action so much?
I think of action as one of my speciality and strengths. But for how long will I be able to use my body like that? A time will come when I won’t be able to do so even if I wanted to. I want to work hard and do more action when I’m still able use my body well. I often receive offers for such projects too.
Do you have any thoughts of wanting to play monotonous roles now?
I do wish for that these days. I no longer have that desire to show many things (to audiences). If I’ve been playing dynamic and powerful characters so far, I now want to play a character that is dull with more time to breathe. I want to try becoming a character that plays with chemistry. A role that audiences will stay still and observe because it is profound.
But your body will be itching because it’s not something you’ve been doing all this while.
I’ll probably be like that. Haha. But one will gradually look at other people from a broader perspective as one ages. My interest in focusing on a character has gotten bigger.
Outside of work, are you the type who will also show a lot of concern for people in your daily life?
That’s right. I’m the kind who will be the first to open up my heart to other people. I’m enthusiastic. I don’t hold myself back. I often hear that I’m jovial, but actually I think it means “since I open myself up to you first, you should do the same for yourself too?” After all, I don’t wish to see that person close him/herself up to me. I meet people because I wish to know that person’s inner self, thoughts, values and stuff like that.
It’s vital that an actor has strong curiosity about people.
Correct. And I think the kind of story you convey through acting has to be prioritised as the first goal. Be it dramas or movies, people who are working hard to make a living spend their precious time to watch these. I want to present to people stories that can help them forget and escape from reality occasionally or offer healing to them.
You said such a thing when you first debuted. You wanted to try falling or wavering, because you were able to leave a deep impression in a highly popular piece of work shortly after your debut. How has it been since then?
I did waver and fall. In my life as an actor and in my personal life, I got betrayed and also got disappointed by people I trusted, and there were plenty of lawsuits as I went from my twenties to my thirties. I paid a heavy price at that time and also learnt some life lessons. It was difficult. But it became a good motivation. It would have been better if those issues didn’t happen. But thanks to that, I was able to live and work hard not to repeat the same mistakes. I developed more sincerity when interacting with people, and it was also the same as an actor. Be it the times when a show isn’t successful, or when I receive criticisms that I’m replicating myself in my character, although these aren’t considered major failures, but nevertheless, there were many things that gave me stress or gave me a lot of things to ponder about. In such moments, I always try to think flexibly. If I was inadequate, I just have to make up for it.
You are positive.
I’ve always been positive.
What is The King and the Clown to the Lee Joon Gi of today? Is it an honour from a long time ago?
Isn’t is like winning a gold medal at the Olympics? It was an honour to be able to introduce myself (to the public) through such a show. Although there are still many people who say “What else does Lee Joon Gi have besides The King and the Clown?”, but that’s because it’s actually not easy to have something as successful as The King and the Clown. It’s natural that people still remember me for The King and the Clown. But despite that, it is a good thing that I was able to remain as a good memory for once.
After that, Lee Joon Gi seems to have come this far without being biased towards a good director or scriptwriter. You came this far without latching onto anyone.
This aspect of me seems to be a cause of stress to my fans. They ask why must I suffer like that. But I do not regret my decisions. These become valuable experience that will be useful to me anytime in the future.
And in fact, everyone is a good director or scriptwriter no matter who he/she may be. That’s what I think. Let’s not regret anything. If it doesn’t work, let’s make it work. I always focus on these two things. That’s why I will try till it works. I keep running with a challenge in mind and just run into things. I don’t have a fear for that.
But in the midst of that, doesn’t Lee Joon Gi also seem to have used up some concepts?
That also seems to be the case.
Then wouldn’t it be good to star in a piece of work that allows you to show a raw side of you earlier, something more fresh compared to now?
I think things are just nice right now. Because…depth doesn’t show up quickly on my face. Much less than in my thoughts.
What do you mean by depth?
Things like looking dignified. The maturity and charm of a man as time passes. As emotions get deeper, one’s face will also become more mature. Actually, my face in the past used to be very suitable for the fantasy genre. I was aware of that fact. That’s why I had a fear for something raw and fresh instead.
At that time, I was still an actor who was not ready for that. But such feelings are now steadily surfacing. I wonder if the time has come for that. Of course, it could also be that I’ve missed the right timing. So although I may have become an actor who isn’t curious, I am still capable of playing a leading actor, so it doesn’t appear to be too late either. As a male actor at the age of 35, there are so many things that I can show. I want to show them now.
Whatever you’ve done thus far, unlike the changes you’ve experienced, the angles used to look at Lee Joon Gi seem to have become stagnant.
That’s right. There are definitely angles that still linger around the old me.
Are there still things that remain the same?
I’m proud that I’ve got a good grip on the focal point of this job. Firmly.
I have a clear understanding that being an actor is a job that faces the public. I think the responsibility and duty that such a person needs to have is of primary importance for an actor. Being sincere is also a basic thing. Even when there are many occasions where people around you are frustrated. Personally, there are also aspects of me that have changed a lot. Probably the men who are reading this will all be married already?
That’s not necessarily the case!
It will be so for the majority? Turning 35 years old, I am now starting to have thoughts of managing a family. It’s not charming for a man to get married too old. I think I mustn’t be too late if I want to be a good influence on the family that will be together with me.
When will I do that, exactly when will I be able to do that? That’s a big problem. Such worries are appearing. The reason why I’ve been living a proper life and worked hard to keep to a model answer sheet is for the future. As an individual, I’ve now begun to think of the future.
Is your most competitive period now over?
There was a time when I thought to myself that I had to be the first among the actors of my age. But not now. I do not set that as my goal. I want to have time now to cultivate my inner self. It’s just nice right now. The level of interest and tension around me is also good. I’m in a state where not everything becomes an issue, and I am able to steadily show whatever I want to do at a regular pace. I hope to maintain things this way.
Translated from Korean to English by Gabby. Please share with credit and do not re-post.
Credit: Arena Homme